Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Montana Loves Freedom

Last Friday, Representative Robin Hamilton of the Montana House of Representatives introduced House Joint Resolution No. 21, which would ensure separation of church and state, particularly in Montana's public education system (see the NCSE post about it here). Here's the main language of the bill:

WHEREAS, a high quality science education is critically important for Montana students to be able to participate in today's technologically driven society; and
WHEREAS, the statewide science standards adopted by the Board of Public Education and implemented through a science curriculum designed by local boards of trustees across the state have resulted in a very high quality education system in our state; and
WHEREAS, Montana is fortunate to have many knowledgeable science teachers who are well qualified to determine appropriate strategies and tools for teaching science to Montana's students; and
WHEREAS, there are a number of national fundamentalist organizations seeking to force local schools to adopt a science curriculum that conforms to their particular religious beliefs and that includes theories commonly referred to as creationism, creation science, and intelligent design theory; and
WHEREAS, in 1999, these organizations were successful in pressuring the Kansas State Board of Education into removing evolution theory from the science curriculum, resulting in the State of Kansas being held up to national ridicule and portraying that state in a very negative light; and
WHEREAS, these national efforts undermine a community's local control, a teacher's academic freedom, and a student's opportunity to receive quality science education; and
WHEREAS, the doctrine of separation of church and state protects citizens, churches, and religious organizations from the government adopting or endorsing a particular religion's teachings.

(1) That the Montana Legislature support local adoption of a science curriculum that is based on sound scientific principles and supported by science teachers, parents, and the local community.
(2) That the Montana Legislature oppose the efforts of national organizations seeking to impose their religious interpretations of events and phenomena on local schools under the guise of science curricula.
(3) That the Montana Legislature recognize the importance of teaching Montana students about religious traditions, beliefs, and history and encourage inclusion of these topics in religious studies, sociology, and history.
(4) That the Montana Legislature recognize the importance of and support the separation of church and state to protect religious freedom of all citizens to worship as their conscience guides them.

I must say, I am extremely glad to see something like this appearing in a state legislature to ensure the constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. Furthermore, teaching children ID and creationism does not teach them anything about science. It teaches them to be satisfied with not understanding the world. It's the antithesis of science. Every state in the nation should have something like this to keep us from falling behind the rest of the world scientifically and technologically.

Unfortunately, I don't know how likely this bill is to pass, but a similar measure died in committee in 2005, so we'll see what happens.

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